It is a simple and basic truth that in the process of self-improvement, personal-transformation, achieving goals, or for that matter, in life in general, the more we struggle against the various obstacles in our way, the stronger they become and the more difficult to overcome. This is true regardless of whether the obstacles are inner, personal blocks and negative habit patterns, or outer circumstances, situations, or other factors that stand in the way of realizing our objectives.
That’s why things like the “war on drugs”, the “struggle against injustice”, and the “war on terrorism” are all doomed to failure, so long as this is the context and framework through which we perceive and approach these and other similar issues. I’m often reminded of the aphorism from the Star Trek television programs that “resistance is futile.” I’d expand on that to say that resistance is not only futile but is in fact extremely counter-productive.
But why should this be so? Why should fighting against something only serve to further empower it?
The answer lies in the working out of a basic and foundational principle of human nature—the fact that we are at our most fundamental levels essentially creative beings. Whether we know it or not, regardless of whether we acknowledge it or believe it to be true, human beings are constantly creating—everything in our lives! We are using our innate creative capacities in every moment of every day—for good or ill. This is the wonderful (or potentially terrible!) magic of being human.
In his classic self-help book Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maxwell Maltz introduces his far-reaching discovery that human beings function as “goal-seeking servo-mechanisms”, like a guided missile that is programmed to seek out and find its target. This is how our creative abilities function.
Essentially, whatever we program into our subconscious mind, it accepts as a goal and immediately goes to work to bring it about as a present and fully realized fact. We “program” our subconscious mind by visualizing or holding a mental image of whatever it is that we wish to create or achieve. This basic creative human ability goes on continuously without our conscious awareness, and it functions perfectly and consistently regardless of whether we know it or not.
This is true whether the images we hold in our imagination are deliberately chosen and consciously applied or simply consist of whatever thoughts and emotions we happen to have from one moment to the next. If we don’t consciously and deliberately choose our inner landscape, the subconscious mind will instead go to work creating the results that best reflect whatever—negative or positive, purposeful or haphazard, progressive or destructive—imagery we happen to hold in our minds regularly. This is especially true of inner images that are emotionally charged in some way, since strong emotions act as a powerful energizing and activating force for our subconscious mind to create, attract, and manifest our goals.
As powerful and far-reaching an understanding as this no doubt is, what does it have to do with why we only empower that which we struggle against? Why is it that, as psychologist Carl Jung asserted, “What you resist, persists. What you fight you get more of.”?
It is simply because when we struggle against something, we’re sending a clear and distinct message to our goal-seeking subconscious mind. When we believe we must struggle against something, we’re essentially saying that it (whatever we resist) is powerful and is a potent obstacle to realizing our desired outcome. The subconscious mind then accepts this premise as a goal and dutifully goes to work to bring it about.
And the more we struggle against and resist—literally anything—the more potently we program the subconscious mind to further empower whatever we struggle against in our experience of it. It becomes a vicious cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies.
So how do we escape this destructive cycle? Does this mean we should ignore obstacles in life or refrain from trying to get through them? Not at all.
If we wish to make progress in any area of life, it is absolutely necessary that we address those obstacles which prevent our moving forward towards whatever objectives we set for ourselves. But the most effective way of addressing a situation is never in resisting it. It’s in bringing awareness to it.
Resistance and struggle come from a negative, emotional perspective on the situation that more often than not has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual situation itself. Limiting circumstances, whether they are inner limitations or outer obstacles, are simply a set of conditions, neither inherently good nor bad. When we judge them as “bad” or “intolerable”, that’s just an emotionally based distortion based on fear.
To address any obstacle truly effectively, simply notice it. Bring your attention to it, and examine it dispassionately. If some response is appropriate and necessary, you can then take positive action without the need to fight against anything! Through attention, you become more aware of the true nature of the obstacle, and through this awareness will arise naturally an intuitive sense of an appropriate response, which is always moving towards your objective, rather than resisting the obstacle.
No resistance is necessary.
While the application of this principle may be a bit more complex in many cases, nonetheless as we practice bringing non-resistant attention to any situation, the obstacles invariably begin to fade away and in many cases even resolve themselves. Whether the obstacle is an inner block or an outer concrete situation, if you make your only intention to see the situation clearly, sooner or later the solution will become blatantly obvious. You’ll know exactly how to address it, and its resolution becomes simple, straightforward, and inevitable. (So long as you don’t slip back into resistance again!)
Resistance causes persistence, but awareness brings resolution and progress. Still in doubt? Try if for yourself and see!